Saturday, April 2, 2011

Retro-blog #2: Torpids

I ought to be packing right now, as I am leaving for Banyoles tomorrow morning, but I really want to catch up on this blog, and I thought I'd snatch a few minutes while doing laundry to finish out February (nothing significant happened in that last weekend, actually) and get into the first week of March, which is when Torpids happened.

Now, you can easily look up Torpids racing, so I won't get too elaborate with the description, but basically it is a series of bumps races that takes place over four days. Bumps races, if I haven't told you about them before, are a wild British invention in which your goal is not only to row faster than the other boats, but to actually crash into the boat in front of you. I suppose this is an alternative to time trials on a river that is too narrow to permit side-by-side racing, which the Isis certainly is. All the college teams are split into divisions based on last year's results (which is silly, if you ask me, as the team changes every year as people graduate and others join, but I guess that's how they've always done it). There are up to 13 boats in each division, and you are staggered by a boat length and a half, measured by a rope, fastened to the shore and held onto by the coxswain, while a poleman uses a specially-made pole to push the boat off the bank and to the right distance and angle. There is a cannon that is fired at the five-minute and one-minute marks, and then again to signal the start. Then you row as hard and fast as you can to try to catch up to the boat in front of you. If you catch them, their coxswain is meant to yield by raising his/her hand (preferably before you actually crash), and then you get to stop, but they have to keep rowing.

At left is a photo taken just after our first bump. The Brasenose cox did not yield in time, and we actually crashed them right into the bank. Took them ages to start up again, poor things. If you don't catch the boat in front of you, you have to row over, which means rowing the whole course, and after the crazy bursts of the first few minutes, you really don't want to do that! If the boat in front of you catches the boat in front of them before you can catch them, they stop rowing and pull to the side. You then have to overbump by bumping the same boat they did. You can imagine that this gets tricky, as that boat had a three-length head start on you. Fortunately, the Lincoln W1 bumped within the first minute every day of racing except the fourth day, on which we overbumped within about two minutes. This made us extremely happy, and we cheered loudly for the rest of the boats as they passed.

Bumping on all four days earns you Blades, which basically means you have the right to order an oar commemorating the event. It's expensive, but it's a pretty cool trophy! Here you can see us getting sprayed with champagne when we returned to the dock, having won blades. The rest of the team was just as excited as we were!
After the last race I went to the second half of a choir rehearsal smelling of champagne--somehow I didn't mind--and then went home to shower and change into a nice dress. That night we had the Torpids Dinner in hall, with hours worth of speeches and cheers, followed by champagne in the MCR for the W1, and post-dinner drinks in Deep Hall (a fun photo from which can be seen in my Visual Blog post). Most of the crew went out to Camera after that, but I was really tired, and wearing heels, and I knew I had to get my mind back on work, as this was only two weeks before my first paper deadline. So I was able to resist the peer pressure, but there were lots of hugs and laughs and shouts of "BLADES!" as we parted on the High Street.

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